Senators on Familiar Ice

The flag of the Ottawa Senators flies throughout Canada's capital, flapping closely next to the red Maple Leaf in front of hotels, office buildings and in car windows.

It was also spotted outside a funeral parlor, which could be an omen if things don't change Saturday night on the home ice of the Eastern Conference champions.

Oddsmakers have made Ottawa -170 money line (NHL Odds) favorites for todays game, the over/under has been set at 5 total goals (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 63% of bets for this game have been placed on Ottawa -170 (View NHL Bet Percentages).

The Senators are back on familiar ground after dropping the first two games of the Stanley Cup finals to the Anaheim Ducks in Southern California.

Ottawa is getting set to host the championship series, for the first time in 80 years when the original version of the team won the 1927 championship, and the city is hoping for its first Cup victory since the Senators were reborn in 1992.

So far, the Ducks have carried the play and looked dominant. Quite a change for the Senators, who flew through three rounds in the East by winning each in five games - including a thrashing of the Presidents' Trophy-winning Buffalo Sabres in the conference finals.

Two one-goal losses in Anaheim put the Senators on the brink of making a quick exit, and they will need to make the most of their first home game in 17 days to change the slippery slope on which they're sliding.

``We feel we can be a lot better, and I feel playing at home is going to bring that out of us,'' Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson said Friday. ``We fought a lot of adversity throughout the year, and I think the way we responded makes me comfortable going into (Game 3).''

The Senators dropped four of their first six games in the regular season and were 7-11-1 before a spurt in which they won eight of nine. Just when it seemed Ottawa had turned things around, a 2-6 skid put them squarely behind the Sabres in the Northeast Division.

Ray Emery took over for No. 1 goalie Martin Gerber, and the Senators rode a 10-1-1 surge past the .500 mark - a level of mediocrity they didn't approach again the rest of the season.

This kind of trouble is a whole different issue, though.

``There's always adversities through every series,'' Alfredsson said. ``Our approach now is Game 3. That's the biggest game of the year for us.

``Everybody has got to go out there and play their best. Don't look too far ahead, don't look at what's happening in the previous rounds or games.''

Emery has stopped 120 of 129 shots over the past five games - including 59 of 63 against Anaheim - but is only 2-3 to show for it.

``He's exactly what we expected,'' Ducks forward Ryan Getzlaf said. ``We've been playing against pretty good goaltenders all the way through here, and nothing changed in this series. He's a great goaltender who competes hard and we've just got to find ways to get pucks behind him.''

Players arrived at Scotiabank Place on Friday morning for a team meeting before practice. No one was too forthcoming about the details of the get-together, but expect some new wrinkles when the Senators hit the ice Saturday night.

``It's top-secret plays,'' defenseman Chris Phillips joked. ``It was an upbeat meeting, talking about some things in the game plan that we'd like to do differently. And for the most part it was a positive meeting.''

The Senators have scored two power-play goals in the series, neither from their top-line forwards. Anaheim's Jean-Sebastien Giguere is making a case for another Conn Smythe Trophy, going 11-3 with a 1.75 goals-against average in the playoffs and coming off a 1-0 victory in Game 2.

``We feel we made life too easy on them the way we've played,'' Alfredsson said. ``We've seen clips where we've been out of character, too, with the way we've played this spring. We felt good about the meeting we had and the adjustments we're going to make.''

Only once has a team turned around a 3-0 deficit in the finals and won the Cup. But rarely in Ottawa do fans associate themselves with the Toronto Maple Leafs, who in 1942 pulled off the roughest comeback in sports.

The new Senators have been haunted by the Maple Leafs, who knocked Ottawa out of the playoffs three times in four years between 2001-04 when the club became the NHL's ultimate underachiever.

Between 1992-98 there were five sweeps in the finals, but no team has done it since. Last year, the Edmonton Oilers were down 2-0 and 3-1 but forced a seventh game. The Ducks trailed New Jersey 2-0 in the 2003 finals, but won all three home contests to also get to Game 7.

``History,'' coach Bryan Murray said. ``We've lived on history the whole year. So we handled it to this point in time, and obviously you're supposed to learn. I believe we've got a better team than we've played for two games.

``I'm not sure why. I'm not even pretending to have the answer, but I know we're a better hockey team. And we now have to prove it.''

The Ducks showed all the signs of a loose team that is having fun and trying not to allow their thoughts to wander to what lies in store if they win two more games. Defenseman Scott Niedermayer is the only Anaheim player to have his name on the Cup, so this is all new territory for his teammates.

A quick goal in Game 3 on Saturday night could throw a whole lot of doubt and fear into a home crowd that is hoping for Canada's first Stanley Cup champion since the 1993 Montreal Canadiens.

``You can't get caught up. It's only Game 3,'' Ducks defenseman Chris Pronger said. ``To start looking too far ahead, that's when you get into trouble. You've got to worry about the task at hand, that's Game 3 and coming out prepared and focused.

``They're obviously going to come with their best effort. Their home crowd is going to be behind them. They'll have the energy and the excitement and the buzz behind them.''

by: Gary Roberts - - Email Us

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